Monday, August 11, 2014

I'm unsubscibing to Skeptoid

In an earlier post, I explained that by disposition, I am very judgmental, but also very forgiving.  A corollary is that my politics are very anti-punitive, and I am very much in favor of criminal rights.  There's no particularly coherent worldview behind this, and I am honestly not all that familiar with the criminal justice system.  I'm vaguely aware that California's prison system has major problems with it, but I would not name that as the root reason for my politics.  The root reason is my emotions, might as well admit it.

Criminals are, by design, a marginalized group.  And they should be.  But the marginalization should be somewhat restrained.  For instance, my landlord is a former felon.  The crime was particularly despicable too.  But I don't believe in denying them business on those grounds alone.  I believe that it's best dealt with through a fair criminal justice system rather than through the whims of individuals, with all their nasty prejudices.

Brian Dunning is a skeptical celebrity, one that I otherwise like, and now he is a convicted felon.  Brian Dunning runs the Skeptoid podcast.  I have nice things to say about Skeptoid.  It's short, which makes it infinitely more listenable than basically every other podcast I've ever tried.  And Dunning takes the time to do some research, which is more than I can say for most people.  It's nice sometimes to learn a few new things instead of just hearing people's opinions.

But back to the felony.  Prior to starting Skeptoid, Brian Dunning defrauded eBay for millions of dollars.  He used custom-designed software to trick eBay into thinking that many sales they were getting were coming from Brian Dunning's advertising.  Dunning earned millions in commissions until he was raided by the FBI in 2007.  More recently, Dunning has been convicted, and sentenced to 15 months of prison.

You can read more about the story on Skepchick, where there is a long dissection of Dunning's statement to the public.  Dunning says a lot of things which are, at best, technically true but grossly misleading.

I was not giving Skeptoid any money previously, but I had subscribed to it, and it was on my blogroll.  I have unsubscribed and unlinked it.  While I believe in restraining our marginalization of criminals, I don't have to like criminals.  Promoting Dunning as some sort of skeptical leader requires at least a little good will on my part.

I also get the sense that "the whims of individuals, with all their nasty prejudices" are working in Dunning's favor here.  People like Skeptoid.  And oh, look, there's a photo of Dunning with his happy family.  What a nice guy, this white collar criminal, the kind of guy you could have a beer with.  Nope, not buying it at all.